Essential medicine shortage looms - SLCPI | Daily News

Essential medicine shortage looms - SLCPI

Dinesh Athapaththu, Treasurer, Azam Jaward, Vice President, SLCPI M. Prathaban, Senior Vice President, SLCPI ,Sanjiva Wijesekera, President, SLCPI, Kasturi Chellaraja Wilson, Immediate Past President, SLCP, Adrian Basnayake, Past President/Council member, SLCPI and Shantha Bandara,Secretary, SLCPI at the press briefing. Picture by-Sudath Malaweera

The Chamber of Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) raised concerns over the current shortage of essential medicines as foreign currency crisis deepens in the country.

Sanjeewa Wijesekera, President of SLCPI said the ongoing economic crisis makes it difficult for banks to facilitate payments through opening letter of credits to import drugs. If this situation continues, he said Sri Lanka will face a massive drug shortage in another 2-3 months. Wijesekara addressing a press briefing held in Colombo on Wednesday (02) said over 85 % of pharmaceutical products are imported and SLCPI accounts for the importation of 1,200 molecules from 435 manufactures from across the world.

“We require close to USD 25-30 million per month to import these products. Banks delay opening L/Cs untilthere is sufficient dollars. This has resulted in shipments being scheduled according to the availability of dollars and not according to the needs of the patients. “Due to foreign currency crisis, companies have been unable to pay their dues. And as a result, suppliers are no longer interested in supplying to Sri Lanka.”

Wijesekera also emphasised the importance of establishing an equitable pricing mechanism by National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) to address key input costs changes such as exchange rate, fuel costs, interest and inflation to secure Sri Lanka’s immediate requirements for medicine and prevent serious medicine shortage. “It should be a mechanism which addresses factors such as fuel price increase, exchange rate, inflation etc. We need an equitable pricing mechanism to sustain supplies of essential medicines in the country. We have been discussing this matter with NMRA since 2016 to get a fair pricing mechanism, but unfortunately it has not happened.”

Wijesekara added that all essential drugs have been under price control since October 2016, without a pricing mechanism. He said further that the last price increase was given in August 2021 when the dollar was trading at Rs 194.

“Now the dollar has gone up to Rs 203 as per the published rate of the Central bank. Unfortunately there is no mechanism to address the parity difference.” He added that there is undue delay in at the NMRA in granting the re –registration of products which have been available in the market for a considerable period and new product registrations. “There is a severe delay in processing documents for granting product registration approvals and import license.”

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